Last Sunday, Fred Couples on the Senior British Open by 2 strokes, going birdie-birdie on 17 and 18. I'll be honest, I didn't even know it was the Senior British Open weekend, and I didn't know that Couples had won until I read it on my Facebook feed. I immediately shared that news with all of my friends because I was happy for Freddie! I have been on the Fred Couples fan bus since I was in high school. Okay, granted, maybe there's a little part of me that likes him because he's cute, but come on, that swing is like butter!!
Uh, What? Overrated? No, wait, he said "most overrated golfer EVER"?! Clearly my reaction indicates that I've taken this way too personally, but it did motivate me to look into Freddie's past...his tournament history, his world ranking, and the money list to see if maybe, possibly, the hype was more than the performance.
Before I get to Freddie's golf history, I think it's important to look back at the times when Couples was in his prime. This was before cable news, blogs, Facebook and Twitter made every personal thing about people public and we actually relied on getting our golf magazines in the mail and waited for weekend coverage of golf tournaments on the major networks to get our golf fixes and information. So I'm wondering, has time created this potentially unjustified label of "overrated" or was Couples just an average player back then? We'll let's look back at his accomplishments...
First, let me say, when walking down golf statistic lane, you learn so much!! I would encourage everybody to scroll back through their favorite player's stats or just check out the money lists from back in the 80's and 90's - it's so interesting and startling to see how far things have come (and if you're old enough to have watched golf back then the names will bring flashback, I promise!). But back to Freddie and my quest to make myself feel justified in being a fan and feeling obligated to defend his career.
My first stop was http://www.pgatour.com/. You want stats? You've come to the right place! Click on a player and hit the drop down for a year and there you go. Just for a quick background, Couples turned pro in 1980 after attending college at the University of Houston (bonus points if you can name is roommates!).
Couples first win on Tour came in 1983 at the Kemper Open. The winner's check was $72,000. Fourteen more PGA Tour wins followed with his last being a win at the Shell Houston Open in 2003. But of course the win that is most associated with Couples is his 1992 win at the Masters (yes, take a moment to visualize his ball hanging on the edge of the water on #12).
That year Couples was first on the money list, had 3 wins, 2 second place and 3 third place finishes in 20 events. Actually, he had 19 top 25 finishes out of those 20 events. In 1993, Couples was 10th on the money list and had 1 tour win along with 15 top 25's in 17 cuts made out of 19. The next year, 1994, Fred made 100% of his cuts in 15 events and had 5 top 10's, including 1 win.
Dropping down to #63 on the money list in 1995, Couples still had 4 top 10 finishes in 15 events. In 1996, Couples won the Players Championship, climbed up to #6 on the money list, and had 9 top 10's in 16 events. After a marginal season in 1997 (#55 on the money list), Couples vaulted back up to 9th on the money list along with 2 wins at the Memorial and the Bob Hope. After 1998, and 18 years on Tour, Couples tapered off a bit but did rebound in 2003 with his win in Houston and 9 top 25's that year.
Couples was eligible for the Champions Tour in 2010 and in 17 events he had 4 wins, 4 2nd place finishes, and 16 top 25's. He was 2nd in money earnings to Bernhard Langer, who played 6 more events. In 2011, Fred played in 10 Champions Tour events and had 2 wins with 6 top 10 finishes. And so far this year Couples has had 6 top 10's in 9 starts with 2 of those being wins.
But I wasn't done!
My next stop was the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). You know the place, a math nerd's dream for calculating who is the best golfer in the world based on over 2 years worth of data and last 40 finishes ranked on strength of field and all that stuff. I was surprised to find out that the OWGR has only been around since 2003. Prior to this, I guess the Money List was the benchmark to see who the best players were (and for me, I still think it is!). It's hard to truly use this tool as a measure since Freddie's prime was probably 10 years earlier, but from April of 2003 to October 2006, Couples was inside the Top 50 players in the world, peaking at 17th for 3 weeks in 2004 and at 16th in August 2005. During most of those 3 ½ years, Couples hovered around 30th and at times in the low 20's. Not bad for a guy didn't win on Tour after 2003.
And don't forget, in 2012, Couples finished tied for 12th at the Masters, beating some guy named Tiger (T40), and at times #1 players in the world Luke Donald (T32) and Rory McIlory (T40)...at 52 years old.
I don't know about you, but after reading all that Fred Couples has accomplished in is over 30 year professional career in golf, unless someone said he was a better player than Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods (which I've never heard before), I would say the guy deserves any and all accolades he's been given over his career. He has been the best player on the PGA Tour, he's won a Major and a Players Championship, along with 13 other Tour events and with a very successful Champions Tour (so far).
Sure, some people might think the only thing Fred ever did was win a green jacket 20 years ago, but there is a lot more to his golf career than that. And yes, some will argue his lack of Major wins could be considered an underachievement, but his ability to continue to play great golf even after 30 years should count for something.
Most overrated ever? Sorry, Craig, I just don't buy it. (but thanks for motivating me learn more!)
Filed under: Fred Couples, OWGR, Cathy Erickson, Money List, PGA, Senior British Open